Master Sergeant Everett S. Thomas
I was drafted into the U.S. Army at Fairfax County, Virginia, on April 22, 1941, and promptly was sent to Baltimore, Maryland. After taking the oath, I was sent to Fort George G. Meade, Maryland along with several hundred other draftees. After taking the necessary examinations, etc., I was given serial number 33000852, and assigned to the Anti-tank Company, 116thInfantry Regiment, 29thDivision. Eight days later I was promoted to Corporal.
After basic training and local exercises, the Division was moved to Fort A.P. Hill, in Virginia, for Division Maneuvers. After several weeks of training there, the Division was moved to North and South Carolina for extensive Maneuvers with the First and Second U.S. Armies. We trained in the Carolinas until December, at which time we broke camp and began moving back to Fort Meade, Maryland. During the movement back to Meade the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and the Country was at War. We were just pulling out of South Hill, Virginia, Sunday morning December 7th, when we got the news over the radio. I knew then I was in for a long stay.
After a ten-day furlough back in Indiana to see the folks, I returned to Fort Meade. In January 1942, the 116thR C T was moved to Camp Pendleton, Virginia, (Virginia Beach Area) for patrol duty along the Atlantic Coast. (German submarines landing saboteurs along the coastal areas.) Early spring we were relieved of this duty and returned to Fort Meade. After a short stay at Meade, back to A.P. Hill, Virginia. Here I was promoted to Sergeant, Three Striper, and command of the third platoon.
After several weeks of training at A.P. Hill, the Division moved once again to North and South Carolina. By this time July, August 1942, the Armies had grown extensively and there were some two million men in this maneuver.
From the Carolina Maneuvers the Division was sent to Camp Blanding, Florida, where we began preparation for shipment overseas. This was late August 1942. Here I was promoted to Staff Sergeant, (4 Striper.) After a short stay at Blanding, the Division entrained and sent to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, where preparations for over-seas duty began in earnest.
During the last days of September, 1942, the Division and attached units, (18,500 men) began to board the HMS Queen Mary for shipment to England.
During the crossing, I got my first taste of combat. Off the coast of Ireland, in heavy seas, traveling alone, without convoy, we came under attack by German Submarines. During the attack, the HMS Curacoa, a British Light Cruiser, while warding off torpedos, cut too close to the Queen Mary, (85,000 tons) and was accidentally hit. The cruiser was cut completely in half, and sank in six minutes, all aboard some 300 men lost. The Queen suffered severe damage but continued on at a reduced speed to the Port of Grenoch, Scotland where we disembarked and entrained for Tidworth, England.
We trained at Tidworth for some eight or ten months, and from here the Division was sent down to Plymouth, England for extensive amphibious training, on the beaches of Slapton Sands, Southern England. We did not know it then, but we were being trained to make the initial assault against the Germans in France. Training was very hard and thorough. We had many casualties during this training. Here I was promoted to Tech/Sergeant, (5 Striper) still in command of the Third Platoon.
About the middle of May, the 29thDivision was moved up to Bournmouth area of Southern England, along with several hundred thousand men, put under tight security, under guard, and behind barbed wire fences. After extensive briefing, the 116thInfantry and units of the First Division were combined as a strike force, under the Code Name Task Force “O” under the command of Major General C.R. Hubener, First Division Commander.
On or about the 3rdof June, we began to board landing craft of every description. The Third Platoon boarded an LCT, (Landing Craft Tank) with our Half-tracks, and 57mm Guns. The Skipper named the craft the “Cherry.” As far as the eye could see, ships and landing craft were being loaded with men and equipment, guns and tanks. We sailed out of the Harbor on the night of June 3rd, and began to circle, waiting for other ships to join us. The main convoy of Force “O” cleared Portland Harbor on the afternoon of June 5th.
The movement across 100 miles of the English Channel was uneventful. Behind us, and on each side as far as you could see were ships, some five thousand in all. There was an umbrella of fighter planes overhead at all times, provided by the 8th U.S. Air Force and the Royal Air Force.
About dawn as we began to circle for landing, all hell broke loose, as the Battle Ships, Cruisers, and Rocket Ships began shelling the beach. Our LCT unloaded my Platoon in over six feet of water. The sea was terribly rough at this time. Before I could get out of the water and onto the beach, I was hit with flying shrapnel. A large hole was torn in the back of my helmet. I was also hit in the wrist, shoulder, and hip. My Jeep took a direct hit with an artillery shell and exploded. All my equipment was lost. My officer, Lt. Ferguson was critically wounded, and evacuated. I never saw him again.
We were on the beach until the late afternoon, and finally began moving inland. Our main objective was St. Lo, France. Isigny the first large French city fell on June 9th. After a few days, inland my wounds became extremely sore. The Medics transported me back to a Field Hospital where a Doctor picked out some of the shrapnel from my shoulder and wrist. Night fell while I was there and the fighting had moved much further inland. I began walking along with several other stragglers to catch up to my unit. During the night march German planes came over in force and bombed and strafed the road we were on. I spent most of this night in a ditch, half filled with water. Before dawn the next morning I hit the road again and finally caught up with my company.
It took us about a month to fight our way to St. Lo. During the fighting at St. Lo, my wrist became terribly infected. I was taken to the Field Hospital again. This time a doctor operated on my wrist, filled me up with penicillin and I returned to the line that night. Here at St. Lo we paused to build up our line for the push across France.
St. Lo fell on July 18th, (2 days after my birthday) after bitter fighting. Soon after St. Lo was taken, Allied Bombers of all types bombed an area in the German Lines, opening a hole for General Patton’s 3rdArmy to pour through. The 29thDivision was attached to the 3rdArmy at this time.
I have never seen so many planes in the air at one time in all my life. Soon after the bombing began, the wind shifted, blowing from the German Line toward the American Line, causing the smoke and debris to come our way. Some pilots lost sight of the targets and bombed the American Line. We suffered many casualties from this.
After the breakout from St. Lo the 29thwas sent down to Brest to capture this large port. Brest surrendered on September 18th. The 29thcaptured thousands of prisoners in this campaign. I lost one of my squad sergeants, and a very close friend in this fight was killed by a sniper, just a few feet from me.
By the time Brest fell, Allied Armies had cleared almost all of France. From Brest, the 29thDivision was moved to Holland to begin the assault on the German Siegfried Line. Now we were attached to the Ninth U.S. Army, under the command of General Simpson. We started battering the Siegfried Line and entered Germany on September 30th. Our main objective was Aachen. (Mud, and rain) Mud, mud, mud, it was over the tracks and wheels of all the vehicles. We lived in it, fought in it, slept in it. There wasn’t a dry spot anywhere.
Aachen surrendered on the 21stof October, and from here we fought our way through the Siegfried Line to the Roer River. Here on the frozen plains of Germany, we spent Thanksgiving and Christmas. I lost another officer here, hit by shrapnel from a German 88. The Battle of the Bulge had begun at this time, (German break-through about 60 miles south of the 29thDivision.) We were waiting for this to terminate before beginning our assault on Julich and crossing the Roer River.
On February 23 we jumped off across the Roer River and began the attack on Julich. Five days later, February 28, this city fell. This city was completely leveled. There wasn’t a single building left standing. After Julich fell, we fought our way down to the Rhine River capturing town after town on the way.
In early March we crossed the Rhine with the 101stAirborne Division, and then we really began to roll. The large German Cities of Monchengladbach, Dusseldorf, and Hanover, all were surrendering very fast. We drove to the Elbe River, and the last city the 116thcaptured was Hitzaker, Germany. Here we met the Russians. The German Nation surrendered on May 8th, 1945.
After the surrender of Germany, the Division was pulled back to Bremer-Haven, for re-assignment and guard duty of this large port. After a week or two of this duty, I was sent back to Camp Lucky Strike in La-Harve, France for the return to the States. I along with several thousand other GI’s boarded the U.S. Navy Transport at La-Harve and landed in the United States, at Boston, Massachusetts, about June 16th. I was sent to Camp Miles Standish, in Boston, and from there to Camp Atterbury. As I was walking to the PX, I saw Clyde, my brother, home from the Pacific Theater of Operations. I was honorably discharged from Camp Atterbury on June 22nd, 1945.
After the War, I re-enlisted in the U.S. Army Reserve Corps and was assigned to the 407thCriminal Investigation Division. While with this Unit I was promoted to Master Sergeant and remained in this Rank until I was Honorably Discharged again on March 31, 1953.